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Year in Review: 2007
Sunday 30 December 2007 22:58:58 by Sebastien Lahtinen

As we approach the end of the year it is traditional to look back at how the broadband world has evolved in the last twelve months and what we should expect from the next year ahead.

In December 2006, we rebranded from ADSLguide.org.uk to thinkbroadband.com to try and shift our focus to the terms used by the average user. This major exercise taught us a lot. We did many things right, but we also made quite a few mistakes. We are going to strive to keep providing information for the technically astute but also to explain broadband better to the average user like our parents who don't understand the meaning of megabits and gigabytes never mind noise margins and attenuation.

The never ending problems of explaining technology in simple terms has remained an issue over the last few months with marketing experts battling to portray their companies' products as faster, better and cheaper than those of their competitors. The debate over the use of the word 'unlimited' in advertising broadband services has come to the headlines again as users find it more and more difficult to understand the level of service they are buying. Phrases such as 'up to 8 meg' are being banded around with users rarely understanding the loaded meaning of the 'up to' bit of the phrase. We expect this will improve slightly in the next six months with increased focus on consumer issues likely due to pressure from several quarters.

Industry consolidation has been a key feature over the last few years and 2007 was no different with the high profile sale of Pipex broadband to Tiscali for £210m in July. This included all the brands that Pipex had acquired (Bulldog, Freedom2surf, Nildram and Toucan). BT also continued on their acquisition trail, buying up Brightview and the related brands which will now be consolidated within the PlusNet network.

As was expected, LLU numbers continued to rise with November seeing an increase to 3.5 million unbundled lines, a distinct rise from the 1.3 million back in December 2006. This is largely due to TV/mobile packages being combined with broadband from providers such as Sky being very attractive to many users. The delayed entry to the market of O2 towards the end of the year should also help boost numbers for 2008, with more users taking advantage of discounts available. Other offers from the likes of AOL, offering a free PlayStation 3 or even a free laptop if you take out a 24 month contract have definitely helped to promote the LLU market. More attractive deals are expected next year to help win customers over from rivals.

Another area of growth this year has been the prevalence of free wireless networks using Wi-Fi. McDonalds announced in October that it would be deploying free Wi-Fi to its 1200 UK restaurants in association with The Cloud, and BT confirmed a deal with FON to implement the FON network on the BT Home Hubs, allowing anyone who shares their broadband network using FON to gain free access via other FON sites.

This year we have seen the introduction of free wireless services on some bus services in Reading, Glasgow, the Oxford Tube, and some National Express coach services from Cambridge and Milton Keynes to London. Mobile Internet use is becoming more popular with increasing availability of Wi-Fi on mobile phones including the much hyped iPhone which includes free wireless Internet access using The Cloud and free data access using the O2 mobile network. Phones are also coming equipped with high-speed data access that allow connections using 3G or 3.5G technologies at speeds up to 3.6Mbps, and for mobile workers, Vodafone's data cards can attain 7.2Mbps in some areas, rivalling fixed line speeds. As more devices get enabled, mobile based Internet access will become ubiquitous with 'Wireless Cities' expanding coverage on a mass scale.

BT's plans for its 21st Century Network (21CN) deployment are also expected to help it offer faster ADSL2+ services upgrading existing broadband services, although the major rollout of this will not take place until 2009. For those of you who have not quite twigged the scale of this change to the telephone system, watch this video from BT:

We are however expecting increased speeds in 2008 with Virgin's 'up to 50 meg' services which are currently being trialled rolling out and other developments within LLU including O2's recent push on the Be 24Mbps infrastructure.

Fibre to the home (FTTH) is as ever a volatile subject in the discussion on increasing broadband speeds. There were no major developments in 2007 and no immediate prospect of any large scale deployments expected. The government has expressed an interest in ensuring high speed services are a key priority and Stephen Timms arranged a meeting with the key broadband service providers to try and ensure a roadmap exists for investment.

With the growing popularity of sites like YouTube and the launch of streaming media services such as BBC iPlayer, the bandwidth demands from users are likely to grow both in terms of peak speed (to cope with High Definition Television (HDTV) content) and overall data transferred. Indeed only recently O2 and Orange have both indicated they will be joining BT and Tiscali in providing IPTV services. Will the Internet infrastructure cope with the new applications that are on the way or have we not quite gained critical mass for high bandwidth services which have been talked about for several years?

May we take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy New Year!

Sebastien Lahtinen & John Hunt
Co-Founders, thinkbroadband.com

Comments

Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
yes this site has been very useful for me and others as well I expect, happy new year to everyone here.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
Interesting article. However I do not expect the Uk to manage 24mb AdSl 2 + services to even a 10th of broadband users for many many years. Consider moving to virgin? Not even if it was free for a year.
Happy New Year All
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
That video in places is educational, and demonstrates well the huge scale of a modern exchange. In other places the guy on it sounds more unsure about what 21CN than any of us (keeps babbling 21CN is the future... god i hope we dont have that and nothing else for the next 20 years). The engineer at one point talks about removing relays during the 21CN change over... relays LOL that and other areas in that video gives you a idea just how old some BT stuff is.
Posted by bowtiejim over 9 years ago
Virgin are not that bad. Consider the plight of those in rural England when recording in excess of 1mb is considered a major achievement. At least Virgin permitted me to upgrade from 500kb while BT were saying that 1mb was impossible - and what joy when one morning the speed tester recorded 1.6mb. But, then living in a town must have its occasional compensation.
Posted by Balb0wa over 9 years ago
I just dont see why 21CN is the future, i wish it was a video of a BT man raving about fibre to the cabinet.
Posted by garswood over 9 years ago
What's this '-to explain broadband better to the average user like our parents who don't understand the meaning of megabits and gigabytes never mind noise margins and attenuation.'

Excuse me but you must be a young whipper snapper who thinks that all the oldies are passed it. I'm well into my 60's and have proved only today I can tell the so called 'Tech Guys' of a well known PC outlet a thing or two.
However, I use your site regularly to check speed etc. I'm so far from an exchange that the best offered is 2.5Mbps but the highest I've been is 1.55Mbps - roll on 21CN.
Keep up the good work.
Posted by SimonKemp over 9 years ago
East Midlands Trains don't yet have Wi-Fi access either on board their trains or in their First Class Lounges. It's good that National Express, the successor to GNER on the East Coast Main Line, have made Wi-Fi access free to Standard Class passengers where previously it had to be paid for. There was never enough bandwidth to make Skype calls from a train, though.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Balb0wa - To explain CN1: BT are able to use it to offload a lot of costs onto the ISP's. Expect slower speeds, higher prices and lower bandwidth limits as its result.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
I love the way at the end of the video he harps on about delivering HDTV content... Yeah right good luck with that, if you live more than a few miles from the exchange you are still only gonna get a couple of Mb download speed and still have 300k streaming video and even youtube pause...play...pause...play (let alone 1000+k video) stutter like its back in fashion. Good old BT
Posted by stars over 9 years ago
Hello Folks, Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you all for creating such a helpful site.
Has anyone had any idea about creating a table as a guide, based on the Line Details from real DSL Max users? for information only.
I live 1.9Km from the Exchange with a Line Speed (Down)of 1728 Kbps, and (Up)of 448 Kbps,
Line Attenuation (Down)is 63.5 dB and Signal/Noise Ratio (Down) of 9 dB.
I believe that it should be faster than 1.7 Mbps. It's just a idea, as it would give you an indication of what you could expect, based on what others, who may have similar line conditions, are actually getting.
Posted by stars over 9 years ago
Hello Folks, Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you all for creating such a helpful site.
Has anyone had any idea about creating a table as a guide, based on the Line Details from real DSL Max users? for information only.
I live 1.9Km from the Exchange with a Line Speed (Down)of 1728 Kbps, and (Up)of 448 Kbps,
Line Attenuation (Down)is 63.5 dB and Signal/Noise Ratio (Down) of 9 dB.
I believe that it should be faster than 1.7 Mbps. It's just a idea, as it would give you an indication of what you could expect, based on what others, who may have similar line conditions, are actually getting.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
garswood - The comment about "like our parents" was from personal experience. You are absolutely right age is no barrier (I'm sure Sadoldman, one of our moderators would attest to that) to being technical.. but in general the younger generation (and I mean those in their teens and early twenties.. i.e. younger than me :-p) generally know more.. Maybe it's their choice of how much time to spend on the issues whereas grown ups have more important things to do. What we're trying to say is we want to cater for everyone :)
Posted by Brenchley over 9 years ago
Interesting article and video. Roll on 21CN. I live 5km from exchange in a rural location and only obtain 0.5mb. My son, who lives near Esher, Surrey, one of the most prosperous areas of the country, in a very built up area, can only obtain 0.25mb, due to distance from the exchange. We are both with BT and are told this is as good as it gets and would not be quicker with another ISP. Is this true? Happy new Year to all.
Posted by canarycity over 9 years ago
I do not live in a rural location but live 6km from the exchange. with a speed of 1.8mb I can not see me getting anything better then this. No one will spend money improving this.

By the way this is a great site!!
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
"in general the younger generation generally [here] know more."

The words "think they" seem to have been omitted from [here].

There is, as Seb says, certainly an "available time" factor involved but although it's not necessarily age related, experience of *systems behaviour* in the real world (be it economic, technical, or whatever) takes time.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
HDTV on the 'net??? you gotta laugh at that!!! (now if he is talking 'non real-time', or 'dedicated service'(ie, they get the big bandwidth, and ISPs get next to nothing..) the very maybe... but never through a standard 'net ISP....

The big thing in 2007 is how **greedy** everyone has got... The foolish ISPs believe their salesmen, that 'unlimited' will get a lot of punters, and forget that most salesmen only know how to sell 'snake oil'...



Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
- and the ISPS, to their shock, realise that 'greedy punters' will take that word 'unlimited' and hit them around the head with it.... there are not that many left who think before they demand lots of free stuff... So the big companies have to find ways to stay out of debt (by restricting bandwidth to keep the bills down), and also keep the good customers happy..

It is a shame that but for the above, we could be enjoying better - like Europe, where they understand that you get what you pay for...
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
re stars - up to ~40 dB attenuation or so you should get the full 8128 sync speed (or 7616 in some cases when interleaved).

At 50 dB you may manage 6M at a push, by 60 dB you'll be down to around 2M.

A reported "63.5 dB" could be anything from 63.5 dB upwards, so 1728 isn't bad. A lower SNR margin target would get you a bit more speed, at the risk of less stability.
Posted by Going_Digital over 9 years ago
Welcome to BT the all American network yehhhaww!
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
To stars 1 have you tryed pluging modem router into bt test socket as this will rule out any possibility of poor internal wireing ..i recommend a faceplate filter this will ensure you get 100% of the signal coming into your home ..i live 4.2km from exchange with 58db attenuation and sync at 2800kbps down and the full 768kbps up ..i know people who live further away from the exchange than i do and get better noise levels ..its all to do with line quality eg how many joins used ..how much aliminium ect
Posted by 2doorsbob over 9 years ago
Stars 1 cont ..and just because you live 1.9km from the exchange this may not reflect the true line length only openreach would be able to give you an accurate figure
Posted by Kempy over 9 years ago
Nothing wrong with honest salespeople.

A company without salespeople is one that is out of business.

Honest companies deliver on the promises their sales staff make on their behalf.
Posted by darcychampney over 9 years ago
Kempy's right. The problem is finding one.
Regarding oldies, I qualify - I'll never see 84 again. However I do read read these articles and comments, understand bits (I mean portions, not the computer ones), have trouble with some jargon, and I'm on a shallow learning curve. My speeds down and up are respectively 0.5 and 0.2 Mbps; Tiscali's my server and I use a Netgear wireless router. I don't know how far I am from the BT exchange.
Can I improve this?
Pete1066
Posted by jerrymartin over 9 years ago
Without sounding nasty darcychampney. Your problem is simple TISCALI. I was with them once, but managed to escape (due to the cr*p technical service). They still owe £25 a year later. Leave them if you can.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
well I have had tiscali for years now, and had no problems!! (richmond, kew exchange)

I regularly download many videos, albums, lots of torrents, no problems...

I think the problem is people 100miles away complaining, where most are ok...

so at least say where you are, so we can see...
Posted by cnelindia over 9 years ago
<a href="http://www.broadbandspeedstest.com">speed test</a>
Test your Internet connection bandwidth to locations around the world with this interactive broadband speed test.
Posted by cnelindia over 9 years ago
http://www.broadbandspeedstest.com
Test your Internet connection bandwidth to locations around the world with this interactive broadband speed test.
Posted by oswizuk over 9 years ago
I've found this site superb in providing an impartial and easy-to-use site. I've passed on the URL to several friends and relations who have used it to research their prospective ISP provider and made some decisions based on the "compare" pages alone.
A very useful resource - thanks team!
Posted by oswizuk over 9 years ago
Adding comment re Tiscali...

I fell foul of them years ago and my Father has since, too. In both cases, whilst it was a reasonable service when everything was working, customer services and billing were a complete shambles - enough to put us off permanently!
Beware Pipex users: now owned by Tiscali too!
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